How to travel from China to South Korea by ferry

There are a couple of different options for travelling between China and South Korea by overnight ferry. We read up on them over at The Man in Seat 61 but until we took the crossing ourselves we had a lot of questions we couldn’t quite find definitive answers to online. Now that we have travelled one of the routes I thought I’d share the process we went through for anyone else that might be considering it. If you are, hopefully it will answer some of your questions. And save you from being screamed at in Mandarin by an irate cabin mate as a bonus.

Weidong Ferry

Route & schedule

We travelled from Qingdao in China to Incheon in South Korea with Weidong Ferry. This ferry only travels in this direction three times a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Your schedule for taking it would run something like this:

  • 06:00 – Depart Beijing accommodation and take the subway to Beijing South Station.
  • 07:10 – Train (category D) departs Beijing South Station.
  • 12:22 – Train arrives at Qingdao Station (terminus).
  • Transfer to Qingdao Port Passenger Station. It’s about 2.5km but there are no signs or directions. Your options are:
    1. Walk. We did this with the aid of preloaded Google Maps on our smart phones (GPS works even without a data connection). It takes 30 minutes if you don’t get lost on the way.
    2. Bus. According to Google Maps you can take the 8路 bus towards 康宁路 from the front of the train station. The bus itself takes about 11 minutes (3 stops) then it’s a 5 minute walk to the port.
    3. Taxi. You may want to have the address ready in Chinese if you take this option: 山东省青岛市北区新疆路6号.
  • 14:30 – You need check in before this time and be ready to board.
  • 16:00 – The ferry’s scheduled departure time. (Ours didn’t depart for another 2 hours.)
  • 11:00 (following day, Korean time) – The ferry’s scheduled arrival time at Incheon. (Ours was about 1 hour late.)
  • Transfer to Incheon Metro Station (a short walk or a very short taxi ride). Incheon is on the outskirts of the Seoul metro system and it takes about 1 hour to travel into the city centre.

Booking tickets

The train is more likely to sell out than the ferry so definitely book your ticket to Qingdao in advance. We used China Trip Advisor and had the tickets delivered to our accommodation in Beijing. (China Travel Guide was also recommended to us for this service.) This seems to be a pretty common procedure but you should give your hotel a heads up in advance as a courtesy. (Or you can have a go at buying the tickets yourself.)

Unless you’re travelling during Golden Week you most likely won’t need to book the ferry in advance. By the the few accounts we found online it’s fine just to turn up at the port and buy your tickets on the day. However, we booked ahead because I just didn’t want to risk it. To make a reservation (we did this 2 days before we wanted to depart):

  • Ring Weidong’s Qingdao office on +8653282803574 during business hours. It’s expensive to call from a Beijing number so we used Skype credit (using the app on a smart phone) and it cost 17p for an 8 minute call.
  • There’s at least one lady who speaks some English at this office but you may want to enlist the assistance of someone who speaks both Chinese and English (hotel staff, a friend, maybe information centre staff) to assist with pronunciation of passport names and numbers so everything is clear.
  • You will need to provide your passport number, name as shown on passport, date of birth, date of departure and desired cabin class (see note below).
  • Regarding payment: foreign credit cards are not accepted and the website talks about paying by wire transfer but we didn’t know how to go about doing that. We asked if we could pay in cash at the port and this was fine.

You won’t receive a reservation number but the booking is linked to your passport numbers so you don’t need one.

Cabin classes

You can read about the available classes and their prices at Weidong’s website but I think the prices might be out of date. Alex and I booked one way Business Class tickets and they cost 832 CNY each including Bunker Adjustment Factor (October 2012).

Note that Business and Economy Class are shared with other passengers and segregated by gender. If you want to stay with a travelling companion of the opposite sex you’ll need to book a Royal Class or Deluxe Royal cabin.

Business Class cabin

At the Qingdao Port Passenger Station

Weidong Ferry’s windows are on the left hand side inside the terminal. Show your passports at window 3 and the staff member will look up your reservation using your names and passport numbers, take your cash payment and print your tickets. (When we were there the girl that served us spoke a little bit of English.) If you get stuck you can go up the slightly dingy looking stairs in the corner and they’ll take you to the Qingdao Weidong Ferry office (that you phoned to make your reservation) and they should be able to help you.

After you buy your tickets you’ll need to pay a port tax of 30 CNY at a different window. (You’ll be pointed in the right direction.)

There are not many facilities at the port. You can buy a couple of snacks but if you want to bring your own food supplies on board it would be best to go shopping at a supermarket the day before you leave Beijing,

On the ferry

All prices are listed in Korean won. You can access boiling water from a coin machine but it only takes won. It was never very clear to us whether Chinese yuan were accepted at the shop or restaurants (they weren’t accepted at the cafe), but we later met someone who had been able to use yuan at the shop and received their change in won. If you want to be on the safe side, take some won with you or bring enough food supplies to last you for dinner and breakfast.

Important note! There is only one key per Business Class cabin. To avoid upsetting fellow cabin members (who may or may not scream at you in Mandarin like mine did), lock the door and return the key to reception whenever you’re not in the room. Normally the door is left unlocked while anyone is in the room.

Bon voyage!

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7 thoughts on “How to travel from China to South Korea by ferry

  1. We live in South Korea and are planning a trip to China. It has been very hard to find out information about the ferry. Thank you so much for writing about your experience. I think we’ll fly. LOL!

  2. Pingback: How to get from Seoul to Beijing without flying – saltwithyourcoffee

  3. I can provide a few updates on this ferry. I travelled from Quingdao to Incheon last month (leaving Quingdao on 26 September 2016 and arriving in Incheon on 27 September.) In China I took the easy way out and used my NZ travel agent to contact a Chinese tour company who arranged transfers for our time in China. The agent was able to arrange the train and ferry bookings. My wife and I were met at Beijing airport and transferred to our hotel on arrival. At the end of our stay in Beijing my wife elected to fly to Seoul, while I took the Weidong ferry. I was transferred from the hotel in Beijing to Beijing South station, and the driver/guide gave me my train ticket, took me as far as the security gate and explained where I should line up for my train to Quingdao. Notices in the station are in English as well as Chinese and I suspect I might have been able to do this myself. The train left at 07.10 and got into Quingdao at 12.20, with more than enough time to get to the ferry. The one slight hitch was this. In Beijing the guide’s English was good, but his accent was a little difficult to follow. He kept stressing that I was to remember ‘white’. At first I thought that meant that the guide who was to meet me in Quingdao would be holding up a piece of white paper with (presumably) my name on it. Then, on the train, I wondered whether he meant that I should turn ‘right’ when I came to the underpass. Since the platform numbers were descending in that direction I took it, and was a little scared that on one was waiting for me. Eventually the Quingdao guide turned up, and it turned out that the message had been to go in the other direction. The lesson from this might be that where you don’t understand what an English-speaking guide is saying ask them to write it down in English for you. At the ferry terminal it did seem that my guide was paying something in cash. As at Beijing the guide was able to take me as far as the security. Weidong is a Korean company and the staff seemed polite, with some having quite good English. I had booked ‘royal class’, which consists of a two berth cabin with a private bathroom. I had asked whether I could pay double for a cabin to myself, but they seemed unwilling to allow that. I was in fact put in a cabin with another person, and he, like I, strongly preferred a cabin to himself, so we went to the information desk and were told that a change might be possible and to come back in half an hour. In fact it turned out that there were spare cabins, since the ship was not full, and I was able to have a cabin to myself at no extra charge. There were two comfortable single beds, and a quite large widow (though the outside surface of the glass could have done with a clean) and a table with two chairs, and a refrigerator. The cabin and bathroom were roomy and comfortable, though there were only two smallish hand towels for the bath/shower with one small cake of soap. It took me a while to realise that you turn the tap clockwise for the bath and anticlockwise for the shower. Since I had a comfortable chair and table and window I didn’t make use of the public rooms, though I would have preferred more deck seating. There were a few seats, but so few that to get one you had to be on the spot when someone else vacated it. We non-Asian travellers (there were three of us, one Russian, one French – who occupied the cabin as I had originally also been assigned – and one New Zealander) and we were given a sheet in English with times of departure (Beijing time), arrival (Seoul time, one hour ahead) and information on what services were available (Korean time). Although we boarded between 14.30 and 15.30 the ship did not leave until 18.00 Beijing time (= 19.00 Korean time). It seemed to leave on time. The cafe served set Korean meals, 10,000Won for dinner, served between 18.00 and 18.30 Korean time. You just lined up and selected what you wanted. There were about six dishes and most people took a bit of everything. Some of it was quite spicy but it was a good experience to see what an ordinary Korean meal was like. I had bought a small amount of Korean money at Auckland airport, but I had Yuan left and the cafe accepted that and charged me 36Yuan, giving change in Yuan. This was my first experience of the metal chopsticks used in Korea. No serviettes were provided, so it could get a little messy for those of us whose chopstick skills are not as good as the locals’. Breakfast (6,000Won, 24 Yuan) was at 08.00-08.30am, and seemed pretty much a repeat of what was available at dinner. I was desperate for a cup of coffee, which did not seem forthcoming in the dining room. I was however able to buy a cappuccino for 3,000Won and take it back to my cabin where I still had a few butter cookies. I did not see any money-changing facilities on board or in the Incheon terminal building, but I didn’t look or ask. Although the timetable I had originally been given thorough my travel agent announced an 11.00am arrival, the material we were given on board said 11.30, and we were not far off that. One problem is that the ship enters Incheon though a lock (an interesting experience which reminded me of Panama) depending on the state of the tide, and that is what seems to make the arrival time uncertain. I was met by colleagues on arrival in Incheon, but was glad I had a few Won for a taxi. In general it seems that in Korea you can use an ATM machine attached to a bank (especially if it says ‘global’). Otherwise it’s a bit dicey. (Even the ticket vending machines at Seoul Central station wouldn’t accept my NZ-based visa card.) Don’t be fooled if the machine asks whether your card is foreign and asks for a pin number, and for which account you want to take the money from. Having gone through all the motions it is quite likely to tell you ‘card is not valid for this transaction’. Finally, to end on a very pleasant note, we were absolutely astounded at the fact that people left their valuables lying all over the place. They were so proud that you can safely do this in Korea, and they seemed to be right. I guess it still pays not to put temptation in people’s way, but there is probably no country in the world where I have felt safer or more looked after. All in all it was a great experience.

    • Hi Max – wow! What a comprehensive account of your experience, thank you so much for sharing! I’m glad you enjoyed the trip and I hope you enjoyed your time in South Korea!

  4. Pingback: How to get from Seoul to Beijing without flying – Salt with your Coffee

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